Friday, February 03, 2006

The shadows and light of being real

The Artist's Way is a book I would recommend to anyone who's engaged in any sort of creative endeavor. I first picked it up a couple of years ago, and here is where I have to make a confession. I read the whole book, but I never completed all the exercises in it. It's a twelve week program, and I made to the week about abundance and prosperity before letting it drop to the margins of my activities. That week hit some uncomfortable places, and I'll admit I chickened out.

The impact that the other weeks made on me though is something that I didn't forget, and I eventually screwed up the courage to return to the book. Last summer, I picked it up again and started with great intent on week one. The house gremlins decided that was not to be, and my copy disappeared. It resurfaced in December, and I've been wanting to do this again. I started morning pages, one of the daily exercises, last week, and began to work my way through the preface and introduction again. Having less time to read than I've had in a long time, I just completed re-reading Chapter One last night, and the exercises await.

One of the things that the author discusses is how creative people who don't fully embrace their creativity often become "shadow artists," living their lives in the shadow of their talent or on the fringes of the field. Would be movie directors become critics. Would be painters become artist's agents. Writers work in fields like advertising. They seek the company of people they see as real artists. It really made me think about how much of my life that I have lived in the shadows.

Despite some published poems many years ago, I shied away from the world of professional writing. I was badly burned years ago when with my newly minted journalism degree in hand I didn't get a job in my field within what I felt was a reasonable time frame. (Oh, I wish I'd known then what I know about job hunting now.) It seems that so much of my life since those rejections has been about coming up with a decent plan B, C, D, etc. I basically felt like I wasn't really good enough to try to make it as a professional writer, and somewhere, something in me said that if I couldn't make a living as a writer, I wasn't a real writer. The other side of this is that in other jobs, I often felt like a fraud because my passion wasn't there. I felt like I was pretending to be something I wasn't.

Now, the saner part of me knows that's a crock, but that feeling was there for a long time, and it never quit driving me. Though my poetry and fiction went underground, I eventually screwed up the courage to use my writing skills in marketing, training and fundraising. Having the validation of an income from my writing, even if it wasn't the writing that I really wanted to do, gave me the courage to think of myself as a real writer again and to hope, if not yet believe, that my writing could be worth something. This has meant getting to the point where I have to recognize that my writing's value is not what it puts on the table, but what it contributes to my life. I'm hoping that it contributes to the people who read it as well.

I'm still left with the tension of wondering if I'm a real writer. It's not the lack of income from writing that drives this fear, and I can't yet define exactly what it is. I just know that I want to step out of the shadows, but part of me still fears what the light will reveal. I expect the exercises I'll be doing in The Artist's Way will touch more nerves. I already feel more open which is exciting and more vulnerable which is scary. Theresa of Theresa Williams-Author [Exile Edition] wrote recently about change and growth. I know that I've been going through changes, and right now I believe that they have been paving the way for growth.

That's the main reason I'm returning to this book. I feel that it holds some great tools for growth. It's the reason I finally committed to joining a new church. It's the reason I'm working on my financial and organization skills. I've let life carry me for awhile and press its changes on me. I feel like I've got my feet planted now, and even though I'm still somewhat shaky, I can sort of see a direction where I want my life to go, and it's very real.


Blogger Theresa Williams said...

That's a good book you're using, and I'm happy you've returned to it. I think that the introverted idealists often live their lives in the shadows, which is such a shame because they are often so talented; that they are perceptive goes without saying. But they tend to give up quickly, thinking they just don't "have it." But the desire never goes away. What I take from writers like Agee (see my latest entry), who are very different from me temperamentally, is the fire. Agee was on fire for writing and he loved it for its wild ways. We are wild, Cynthia, wild at heart. You know what's right: do it. Write.

February 03, 2006 11:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

My problem isn't so much whether I AM a writer. I know that's what I am. None of what I've ever "done," in the public sense, has had anything to do with my being a writer. But, I know: I am a writer. There is a relationship between me and the written word...a love/hate relationship that anyone who is NOT a writer cannot really understand. Writing is the medium that forms me, defines me, and enslaves me It blesses me, tortures me, and I am nothing without it. I don't neeed a book to tell me that.

February 04, 2006 1:27 AM  
Blogger Nelle said...

Your entries show that you have a talent for writing, among other talents. You are so insightful. I often find myself reading them again to make sure I have not missed anything. You are an amazing thinker who has the skill to put those thoughts down in ways that become meaningful to others. I hope the book helps you to channel your talents.

February 04, 2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Write on, Cynthia!

I shy away from "tell you how to do it" programs. I say it's because I don't like being told what to do, but in truth, I think it is more fear of failure, of not making it through to the end, that stops me. I have that book somewhere - or had it. Maybe it's time to open it again.

Love, Vicky

February 04, 2006 3:23 PM  
Blogger Globetrotter said...


I for one am in awe of your writing! I almost didn't comment the first time that I read your blog because I felt so out of my depths after reading you. I do hope that you allow yourself the freedom to begin writing for your own enjoyment, and see where it leads. Since making money on your writing is no longer an issue, my guess is that your writing will take flight as soon as you allow yourself the complete freedom to just be you...

I read The Artist's Way about 5 or 6 years ago. It's a wonderful book, but I also did not follow through with the weekly assignments. The morning pages alone were valuable, though, and helped me through some difficult times of sorely needed introspection. I accumulated reams of notebooks from those pages, but eventually threw them all into a dumpster one day because I didn't want anyone to ever find them and read them. I'm sorry that I did that now, because I kinow that I did some very fine writing about spirituality within those pages.

Now that I've begun to paint, I should try to read it again, and follow through with the exercises.

We'll be anxious to hear about your new church.

February 05, 2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger beths front porch said...

Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I had not heard of it. Also...on an unrelated matter (yet maybe related - it's artistic?) I think your blog is aesthically very pleasing! It has beaucoup information...was it hard to put together? Very well done! I enjoy your insights very much. --Beth

February 05, 2006 6:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I just came back and re-read my comment, and I realized it looks kind of bitchy! Of course, I don't have a problem with using tools to get in touch with or enhance your creativity. I guess what I meant to say is that I have already discovered I am a writer, and it isn't always fun! Maybe a book that could talk me out of thinking I'm a writer would be a good thing! :)

February 05, 2006 8:57 PM  
Blogger tara dawn said...

I can definitely empathize with the feeling of wondering "am I a real writer?" This is a question I have begun to struggle with myself in recent weeks. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my wondering.
I've heard so many wonderful things about the book "The Artist Way". I am eager to pick it up, and yet worried that I do not have the adequate time to devote to completing the activities as I would like. Or perhaps I am allowing myself to use that excuse as a protection against what I may find within myself along the way.
Whatever the reason, you have inspired me to go ahead and get this book. Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with it, and urging me forward on my own journey.
Wishing you well...

February 05, 2006 9:02 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

Cynthia, I finally made it all the way through the book and the exercises in the spring of 2000 after a friend and I buddied up to support one another on the journey. Before then I had been writing morning pages since the summer of 1995 and I had worked my way through to that point in the book where Julia says a lot of people get stalled.

All this recent AW revival I'm reading in blogs is tempting me to pick up the book again. I wish you the best on your AW journey.

February 12, 2006 11:19 PM  

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